Society needs to better understand the economics of climate change, researchers say

April 15, 2016 by Laura Seaman
The natural sciences have revealed much about the past and future of climate change, but there is a gap in the understanding of how this change will affect society. Credit: kwest / Shutterstock

Scientists have made huge strides in understanding the physical and biological dimensions of climate change, from deciphering why climate has changed in the past to predicting how it might change in the future.

As the body of knowledge on the physical science of climate grows, a missing link is emerging: What are the economic and social consequences of changes in the climate and efforts to control emissions of greenhouse gases?

In a new paper in the journal Science, a team led by Stanford professors Charles Kolstad and Marshall Burke argues that relatively low funding for has contributed to a knowledge gap about what climate change means for human society. This , they argue, renders the large advances in natural science less useful than they could be for policymakers.

The paper highlights three research questions with the greatest potential to close that gap:

What is the true cost of carbon emissions?

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a dollar value estimate of future social and economic damages caused by each present-day metric ton of . It can also be thought of as the amount of money society saves, in terms of damage avoided, by not emitting an additional metric ton of carbon.

"The SCC is a key policy measurement that's already being used in U.S. government regulations. But existing estimates have shortcomings and these need fixing if we are going to make the correct policy decisions around climate change," said Burke, an assistant professor at Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, a center fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a faculty fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Current SCC calculations leave out several important factors. For example, what is the economic cost of such as floods and droughts? How should economists estimate "non-market" damages that are exacerbated by climate change, such as armed conflict, disease epidemics and deforestation? In what parts of the world does climate change slow or accelerate economic growth? Can farmers avoid lost income from climate change by adapting their crop choices and planting schedules?

"Getting the social cost of carbon right is most pressing, given its importance to policy," said Kolstad, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Precourt Institute for Energy. "It's also an area where rapid research progress should be possible."

What emissions mitigation policies are best?

Once researchers agree on the true cost of carbon, there are many policy options for reducing emissions. Industry regulations and subsidies for renewable energy are popular policy choices for governments all over the world, but they may be weaker at cutting emissions than less politically popular options like carbon pricing or tradeable carbon emission permits.

"Until we understand more about the benefits and tradeoffs of different carbon pricing options, governments are almost flying blind on climate mitigation policy," Kolstad said. "When we can make a clear economic case for one policy over the other, we can better align decisions about systems with their actual costs and benefits and, as a result, strengthen political support for action."

What role do developing countries play?

Most of the existing research on climate economics tends to focus on wealthy countries, even though developing countries now contribute more total greenhouse gas emissions. Poorer countries also often face a different policy environment than richer countries and are potentially more economically vulnerable to changes in climate.

"We need better evidence on how impacts of climate change might differ in developing countries, as well as a deeper understanding of the climate choices faced by developing country governments," Burke said.

Twenty-eight leading economists contributed to the Science paper, a fact that Burke pointed to as evidence of broad consensus on the need for more economic research on climate change.

The biggest roadblock, the authors agree, is funding.

"The research problems are tough for both natural scientists and economists, but research support has been much more modest in economics, so far fewer people are working in the area and progress has been slower," Kolstad said.

"Dozens of teams of physical scientists around the world work with the exact same climate simulations and compare results to estimate future ," Burke said. "Economists are just starting to do something similar, and as this collaboration develops I think it will immensely valuable. There's a strong argument for spending research dollars on understanding the economic and social implications of that physical science. Social science is relatively cheap, so extra funding can go a long way."

Kolstad encourages young researchers to pursue the "many interesting, socially relevant questions in this field" and advises governments to work together to strengthen long-term research funding and support for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. "Otherwise," he said, "the large sums spent on natural science will be poorly targeted."

Explore further: Renewables and nuclear no substitute for carbon dioxide disposal, argues leading climate physicist

More information: M. Burke et al. Opportunities for advances in climate change economics, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9634

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dogbert
1.6 / 5 (13) Apr 15, 2016
Society needs to better understand the economics of climate change, researchers say


So, we need to spend more money determining how to redistribute resources.

AGW is an hysteria for which there appears to be no natural limit. The people who study the climate and produce these apocalyptic warnings are too entrenched and too comfortable with their funding to ever relax or change course.

The world needs to continue to resist the hysteria as strongly as possible. It won't go away anytime soon, but it can be contained.
Eikka
2.8 / 5 (9) Apr 15, 2016
The world needs to continue to resist the hysteria as strongly as possible. It won't go away anytime soon, but it can be contained.


There's also the case that some amount of global warming might be a net positive to the societies, whereas too little or too much is not, so not all action for or against it, or inaction, is necessarily good action, although we ultimately do need the means to control the climate both ways.

A train running on tracks without a driver might carry you in the right direction, but you do need some means to ultimately stop where you want to go.
Squirrel
1.8 / 5 (10) Apr 15, 2016
Economics is often called the "dismal science". It did not forsee the great depression we are still in. Nor predict the catastrophic effects of the Euro. What chance it can do any better with climate change? https://en.wikipe..._science
gkam
1.9 / 5 (13) Apr 15, 2016
Deniers are the politically-determined folk who hate any effort to make then part of society. Their greed and selfishness resists all efforts to civilize them. Let them live in their fantasy world, but we have to stop them from killing us with their degrading and superficial lifestyles.

They think life is a contest and those who get stepped on along the way deserve it.

How do we wind up with such incomplete people?
antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (10) Apr 15, 2016
The biggest roadblock, the authors agree, is funding.

After we have squandered trillions on the AGW lie, there will be nothing left to save us from what nature throws at us. So, yes, society better understand this.
gkam
1.7 / 5 (12) Apr 15, 2016
Did you fall for "WMD!", like the other conservatives and goobers? Just want to know what you deem to be a good use of money.
tblakely1357
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 15, 2016
"Deniers are the politically-determined folk who hate any effort to make then part of society. Their greed and selfishness resists all efforts to civilize them. Let them live in their fantasy world, but we have to stop them from killing us with their degrading and superficial lifestyles."

Sounds like the only solution is re-education camps for those deemed salvageable and executions for those deemed intractable.... for the good of the planet and humanity as a whole of course.
obama_socks
2.3 / 5 (9) Apr 15, 2016
This link is from 2015. FEMA buses and trains with shackles. Detention centers. The military exercises called Jade Helm15 was also last year. Probably all but forgotten now...almost a year later. Homeland Security planning for something? Are we turning into the U.S.S.R.?

http://allnewspip...Helm.php

Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (10) Apr 15, 2016
This link is from 2015. FEMA buses and trains with shackles. Detention centers. The military exercises called Jade Helm15 was also last year. Probably all but forgotten now...almost a year later. Homeland Security planning for something? Are we turning into the U.S.S.R.?

http://allnewspip...Helm.php



What a fucking idiot!
rrrander
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 16, 2016
And they'll never ever mention any positives about warming. like longer growing seasons or thousands of fewer deaths due to warm winters in the north.
Eikka
4.5 / 5 (8) Apr 16, 2016
Their greed and selfishness resists all efforts to civilize them. Let them live in their fantasy world, but we have to stop them from killing us with their degrading and superficial lifestyles.


That's pretty ironic coming from a narcissistic attention-whoring pathological liar.

How's that gas-burning heating system of yours doing? You know, the one that you installed instead of an electric boiler because gas is cheaper than the electricity you're selling for profit to the utility from your solar panels? Hypocritical much?
Eikka
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 16, 2016
Here's the rub: gkam says he's "doing his part"

Alright, let's examine that claim. He's said he has a NG burning instant water boiler.

If he was actually doing his part, he would have an electric storage boiler that uses the electricity from his solar panels for his heating and water needs, and in the lack of that, renewable electricity bought from the grid.

However, since he's got net metering, the electricity is worth about five times more sold to the grid instead of used in the house, so he's substituting it by natural gas. Even if it does offset some fossil fuels that way, it's doing less than if he were to use it directly because of transmission losses.

In fact the only reason his solar setup is making returns is because he is not using the power himself, instead getting free fossil-fuel generated power at nighttime AND using fossil fuels himself, directly and indirectly.

Gkam "doing his bit" is a delusion - or a deliberate lie. You choose.
Eikka
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 16, 2016
we have to stop them from killing us with their degrading and superficial lifestyles.


Then start with yourself.

As far as social responsibility goes, you're a false prophet.

And this is actually the greatest problem we have in regards to the whole issue: many people THINK they're doing the right thing, and many people PRETEND they're doing the right thing in perfect understanding that they're not. The issue is telling the difference and finding actual solutions rather than falling prey to the conmen and naive fools.

gkam
1 / 5 (10) Apr 16, 2016
Eikka, Dear, settle down. Let us compare our own actions, shall we?

Now, what kind of automobile do you drive? From where do you get your electricity?

Your assertions are simply garbage, the dreams of a wannabe. I bought the instantaneous heater because it was most efficient. It sits next to two water-saving appliances.

"However, since he's got net metering, the electricity is worth about five times more sold to the grid instead of used in the house, so he's substituting it by natural gas."
--------------------------------
You have NO IDEA of what you babble. The rate schedule I am on does not pay me for peak power I produce, I just trade it for the lower-cost power I use at night. Yeah, I trade my 31 cent power for the utility ten cent power, straight across, kWh per kWh.

That works for me, and the power company too. Got a problem with that?

Now, once again, what do you drive?
gkam
1 / 5 (11) Apr 16, 2016
"And this is actually the greatest problem we have in regards to the whole issue: many people THINK they're doing the right thing, and many people PRETEND they're doing the right thing in perfect understanding that they're not"
-------------------------------

Gosh,Eikka, when we re-insulat4d the house, converted to LED lighting, put the outside lighting on its own PV system, re-glazed the windows, re-surfaced the exterior, added energy and water-saving appliances, we thought we were doing it right. I guess not, some diesel polluter says I am only pretending to be clean.

We then added an electric vehicle and a solar system to produce out power for it and the house. No more trips to the gas station, no smoke, no leaks, no pollutants,

We are clean. Now let's talk about Eikka and his stinking, clattering, oil-smokey Diesel.
geokstr
1 / 5 (6) Apr 17, 2016
Economics is often called the "dismal science". It did not forsee the great depression we are still in. Nor predict the catastrophic effects of the Euro. What chance it can do any better with climate change? https://en.wikipe..._science

Yeah, like, you know, come on! How could anyone have foreseen that government, in order to re-distribute the real estate wealth (because fairness and reparations), first forcing lenders to make millions of mortgage loans to people with no hope of repaying them, with zero down, bad credit, and using unemployment comp and food stamps as income, then guaranteeing them via Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, could possibly have any negative consequences? No way, man!

I mean, have socialist policies ever led to disastrous economic consequences, like anywhere?

It was all the fault of mean ol' Goldman-Sachs, and Cowboy BusHitler, and racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and Islamophobia, and...and...and, well, you know, stuff.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (6) Apr 17, 2016
And again, "science" completely forgets to ask what the benefits will be, feeding skepticism of the way it continues to be portrayed as some horrific pending event. Consult a farmer who has to deal with variables like this on a yearly basis. Some years are going to be great, some not so much.... just like a warmer climate will mean drier conditions for some, wetter for others, longer growing seasons for some, shorter for others. Direct observation (the only reliable information we have) suggests that ice melts when it gets warmer and Africa gets greener. Not nearly as frightening predictions.
leetennant
5 / 5 (8) Apr 17, 2016
Economics is often called the "dismal science". It did not forsee the great depression we are still in. Nor predict the catastrophic effects of the Euro. What chance it can do any better with climate change? https://en.wikipe..._science

How could anyone have foreseen that government, in order to re-distribute the real estate wealth (because fairness and reparations), first forcing lenders to make millions of mortgage loans to people with no hope of repaying them, with zero down, bad credit, and using unemployment comp and food stamps as income, then guaranteeing them via Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, could possibly have any negative consequences? No way, man!


Wow you know as much about economics as climate science. Scary. Everything you just said was an example of unfettered capitalism. So, guess what? Unrestrained ideology never works whether it's communism or capitalism. But I guess understanding that requires intellect
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (9) Apr 17, 2016
Guess who pays for most of the work economists do?

The same people who pay for climate denial "science." Which are essentially the same people who argued cigarettes won't hurt you and lead in the atmosphere isn't harmful and it's "natural" anyway.

'Nuff said.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (8) Apr 17, 2016
How's that gas-burning heating system of yours doing? You know, the one that you installed instead of an electric boiler because gas is cheaper than the electricity you're selling for profit to the utility from your solar panels?
1. It's more efficient to make hot water using gas than electricity.
2. It's more efficient to offset electricity and reduce necessary generating capacity using mostly fossil fuels than to use that same electricity to make hot water.
3. Electricity from distant power plants has to traverse the electric system, experiencing losses all along the way. Net input to the power grid from local solar is more efficient than power from distant power plants.

So, hypocritical much, @Eikka?

I ain't exactly Gracie's fanboi but you're on the wrong side of this one.
gkam
1 / 5 (9) Apr 17, 2016
I ain't Gracie, Da Shit.
HeloMenelo
3.7 / 5 (9) Apr 21, 2016
Society needs to better understand the economics of climate change, researchers say


So, we need to spend more money determining how to redistribute resources.

AGW is an hysteria for which there appears to be no natural limit. The people who study the climate and produce these apocalyptic warnings are too entrenched and too comfortable with their funding to ever relax or change course.

The world needs to continue to resist the hysteria as strongly as possible. It won't go away anytime soon, but it can be contained.


aaaah... dogfart, another antisciengorilla sockpuppet, as is dogbert

rrrander, geokstr, jeffensley, all the sockpuppet of antigoracle aka antisciencegorilla, AGW is a hysteria for thos with 2 braincells, they long to live like baboons in caves, also liking to dogfart on themselves.
HeloMenelo
3.7 / 5 (9) Apr 21, 2016
The biggest roadblock, the authors agree, is funding.

After we have squandered trillions on the AGW lie, there will be nothing left to save us from what nature throws at us. So, yes, society better understand this.

Hundreds of trillions have already been squandered by your goony oil empire, laying waste to earth around each corner it ploughs through, and you dare even try and mention amounts that has by far not been spend by people trying to save the world, true bonobo style, you go gorilla, the world is watching and seeing every word, and we as always are laughing and having a good time exposing your lunicy... here monkey monkey ;)
HeloMenelo
3.7 / 5 (9) Apr 21, 2016
C'mon monkey, bring in another sockpuppet, i love desert... mmmm... :D

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